Prof. dr. William Martin, professor of Molecular Evolution Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf

Bill Martin works on early evolution. He grew up in Texas, moved to Germany in 1980, got his degree in Biology at the University of Hannover, received his PhD from the University of Cologne, served 10 years as a postdoc at the University of Braunschweig, and has been full professor in Düsseldorf since 1999. He has worked on endosymbiosis and the origin of eukaryotes, with a focus on the origin of plastids and the origin of mitochondria. In the last ten years his research focus has shifted to the chemistry underlying the origin of prokaryotes at hydrothermal vents. The common theme of his research is comparative physiology, looking at the reactions that cells use to make a living, combined with bioinformatics as tool to read about the history of life as it is written in genomes. He has 340 papers to his credit, many of which have appeared in highly visible but not necessarily important journals. He is a member in good standing of the American Academy of Microbiology, EMBO, and several small scientific academies. He has received a few small awards. He has supervised 50 PhD students who have done the work underlying his research and he is happy to say that 8 of his former students have gone on to obtain their own professorships and 30 others have a permanent job in science. Among his weaknesses he lists the fact that his typing is bad and that his spelling is even worse. Among his strengths he lists that he was never afraid to challenge paradigms and that he was lucky enough to have supervised so many outstanding students. As a rather rare distinction, he was honored to have just received his third ERC Advanced Grant, which will help him to investigate the geochemical origin of microbes and very earliest phases of their evolution over the next five years.